Professional Writing’s University Home

When asked what the most adaptable writing program is, creative writing springs to mind. It would be the wrong answer. Professional and Technical Writing is a perhaps the most flexible discipline. Not every student who strolls into a basic writing course plans to write a book. However, every student will, at some point, be required to write professionally whether it’s something as simple as a memo or something industry specific. Nursing students have to write patient notes and articles for publication. Engineering students have to write proposals and cost analysis projects. History students will have to write comprehensive research assignments and propose theories. Geology students will have to write reports on soil content. And, of course, English students will have to write everything from literature analysis to massive works of fiction.

This brings to mind the question: where does it belong? Who owns the program?

By rights, it is a writing field; therefore, the English department has precedence. But who would argue that the Communications department would be a better fit? After all, that’s where Journalism has splintered off to. Why not put them together? In my opinion, the English department is a better fit, but that may be personal bias.

Technical and Professional writing is different from traditional English expectations in that it lacks the emotional quotient so often employed there. “The Ethic of Expediency” sums that up nicely. While reading the article, it was difficult to put the distance required to understand the rhetoric of the article due to the horrifying topic of discussion. Writing clear, concise arguments without emotional persuasion is an important part of professional communication. Persuasion by fact and data bears more weight than the emotional appeal. In my years writing intelligence reports, that was the hardest part of the job: removing the emotional quotient from my source material to render a clear, comprehensive picture of the events in question for review by our superiors.

Under that argument, slipping it beside Journalism in the Communication department would bear weight. Many of the philosophies that go hand in hand with responsible journalism center around removing personal bias.

Technical and Professional Communication goes beyond writing. In our modern world, media begins to play more and more into the bigger picture. Instead of looking up instructions, my middle schoolers first look to YouTube for tutorials whether the question is how to work a complex math problem or how to get to a particularly hidden objective in their video game. Instead of grabbing the dictionary from the bookshelf, they are more inclined to grab their laptops and search engines to discover the meaning and usage of a word. Teaching tools have expanded beyond the printed word thanks to the internet. And it’s not just my children. My husband researches professional articles and drops them onto his iPad as well as videoconferences regarding issues and techniques. For me, professionally, it is the same. Writing techniques, trends, publishing calls, and agent information zips through blogs, online professional publications, and video workshops.

Where does the line in the sand stand? It’s an interesting question that bears thought.

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